Six other people, including New Jersey governor Chris Christie and New York Times columnist Nicholas Kristof, were chosen to receive the distinction, which recognizes "outstanding leadership" in any area of interest.
"Ahmed's exceptional achievements as pioneering scientist, an extraordinary professor, and a regarded statesman of the world make him an ideal candidate to receive this honor," says Caltech president Jean-Lou Chameau. "We at Caltech are, as always, extremely proud of him."
The selection committee included many prominent leadership experts and considered more than a hundred finalists from a variety of sectors and walks of life.
"I am pleased with this special recognition to be named among the top leaders in America," says Zewail, "It comes at a special time, when Egypt, my native country, is going through democratic changes, and to those who have died in the struggle against oppression, I dedicate this award."